Interactions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve have become shockingly intense in recent years. If you are pulled over on the road or become involved in a crowd control situation involving police officers, it is critical – and in many cases, a lifesaving measure – to know how to safely interact with law enforcement. Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is another critical step that will protect your interests after an arrest or if criminal charges are filed by a prosecutor.
It has been twenty-five years since the beating of Rodney King led to the L.A. Riots of April 1992. Tension between law enforcement and distrusting civilians caused sixty deaths, many casualties, and millions of dollars of damage. Sadly, the lessons of that tragedy did nothing to stop the cycle of violence. The 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri were eerily similar to the circumstances in L.A. as a wounded public reacted to the dangerous actions of the law enforcement officers who were supposed to protect them. Law enforcement was unable to address these concerns, tensions escalated, and the riots turned violent. Nothing was solved, and the problems survived to plague the next generation.
What Should You Do When Speaking With Law Enforcement?
If you become involved with law enforcement – whether at a traffic stop, during a crowd control situation, or otherwise – following a few simple rules will help keep everyone safe.
- Always be calm and polite. Almost inevitably, the recent police tragedies involve a situation that escalated quickly. Keep your emotions in check, even if the officer is wrong. This could make the difference between life and death.
- Answer questions about your identity. Asking for your driver’s license or other identification is not incrimination, and officers are generally allowed to ask for it. By producing your identification cooperatively, you demonstrate to the officer that you intend to keep the situation peaceful.
- Politely decline to answer questions which are incriminating. Be very mindful of the tone and manner in which you do this, because this, too, is a common area of escalation. Notice the difference: “I’m not answering any of your questions!” versus “I’m not comfortable answering that without an attorney present.” It is entirely possible to invoke your Constitutional rights while still maintaining a calm and polite demeanor.
- Never allow yourself to become hostile or confrontational. Law enforcement is a dangerous profession, and officers are trained to react to danger immediately and aggressively. This is simply the reality of being a police officer. Even if the officer blatantly wrong or rude, you are not going to fix that problem by escalating the situation. End the interaction as politely and quickly as possible. Later, you will have plenty of opportunities to consult with an attorney about your rights.
Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing criminal charges, or have questions about your interactions with law enforcement, contact the Zeiger Firm today. Attorney Brian Zeiger can help you safely navigate interactions with the police. Call (215) 546-0340 to schedule your consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.